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Music Production: The Stem Cell Liberation Front
04/11/2002 The Stem Cell Liberation Front: Live at the 31st St. Pub

Announcement:
And now it's time for another evening of the Elastic Concept...this one even more elastic than the last. Rather than have the same old configurations, we're doing something different. The band lineup is this:

  • The Stem Cell Liberation Front: Drummer par excellence Ryan Sigesmund and I are back with another set of wildly danceable noise. We rocked the Rex, and now it's time to rock the Strip.
  • Axis of Evil: twisted minimal (that's the goal, anyway) improv performance I'll be doing with Nick and Ty from Clutter and Mike Klobuchar, who laid down some fascinating noise (air-synth and Boomerang pedal) at the last Sonic Roulette.
  • Template, a group of young rockers from the middle of Nowheresville, PA. (Patricia thinks they should amend their name to "Template of Doom" and I think I'm going to mention this to them.) Bring flannel and earplugs and get ready to rock, tough guy.
  • AND! Robert "Unfinished Symphonies" Press will also introduce each act with a custom-composed Elastic Overture.
  • Also some things
  • And the other stuff
Obviously this will be an evening of unparalleled variety. For everyone who missed the Rex show, come on out to watch us slowly work our way through every Pittsburgh bar and club.

9:30, $3. The 31st St. Pub, 3101 Penn Avenue, in the Strip District, Pittsburgh.

Report:
Damn, another good night. I mean, there was the usual lack of audience and various club weirdness, but from an artistic point of view, it really was a good night. We hadn't had a rehearsal, not too much of a plan, and I'd thrown together a set of samples at the last minute because I wanted to give us a customized sound check. (Lots of variations on the phrase "stem cell.") I was running late, and didn't make it to the bar until about ten to 9. Ryan (SCLF) and Ty (Clutter, and for this night, part of the Axis of Evil) were setting up, and Ryan and I opted for several reasons to go first (convenience of guests, maintaining the energy level, etc.).

There were some good signs--the tables here were set for barstool height, high enough that I could put the PowerBook on it and comfortably play standing, so I hauled one on stage. There wasn't much room up there between the monitors and the two drum kits (even one drum kit gets pretty tight) but we managed. Ty had brought an abbreviated kit for the Axis set, as he expected mainly to be doing percussion.

The bar is a former biker place that seems to be struggling. I've seen some good shows there, but they've started having exotic dancers during the afternoons and early evenings; apparently dances were still going on as some of the band members arrived, and there's a sign on stage advertising the $15 private dances in the back room. Kind of an, um, interesting atmosphere.

So we were ready by 9:30, but...no sound guy. We waited, and it turned out that the owner didn't want anybody to play until 10:30...so there was another hour of waiting around. At about 10:15 the sound guy showed, and was indeed helpful, asking us questions about what we were doing, and how we wanted things, and commenting on our sound check samples ("Stem cells? I invested in that shit.") After a few final minutes of setup, off we went.

Robert "Unfinished Symphonies" Press had composed a custom overture for us, which he played on his budget organ, to an enthusiastic reception. We did an engaging improv based on the sound check, which went quite well. I remember there being stretches during which I was wondering what to play, but when it locked, it really locked. Ryan had some great grooves happening, and it felt right to be able to play standing up. And I was able to turn around to face Ryan, which helped a lot with the communication. Definitely a lot stronger than the Rex show, with a lot more power. We're headed into rock territory, folks.

The second piece (a version of "Uh...") went on rather longer, but had a lot of good ideas happening...and our set came in at about the 45 minute mark. At the time I wasn't sure how successful it was, but there's a lot of good stuff to work with in this piece. And it was really fun to mix the noise with a strong beat, and play a twisted variation on rock. (The guitar was mostly going through the ring modulator, so lots of dissonance there.)

The duration of the SCLF set, however, proved to be a problem for the Axis of Evil. (The Axis was actually Clutter--the non-Clutter member who was going to be there fell ill, and so the lineup was Nick, Ty, and me.) The problem was that with the late start, we were only going to get about a half hour to play, which would have been ok with me on my own, but seriously impedes the flow for Nick and Ty. Originally, we were going to be doing more spacious, ambient stuff, but the SCLF set fired the Clutter guys up, so they went for broke. It was a good set, however--Nick sticking to guitar opened up a lot of frequencies I could use between the guitar and drums (I'd encouraged him not to play bass for this), and there are some very nice moments on the MiniDisc. It was a really fun set to play, actually, with some good interaction. Ryan and his posse had to split during the set, as the evening was running quite late for them. Interestingly, from the stage there it's impossible to see into the audience at all.

If there's one overall complaint I have, however, it's...the MiniDisc recording overall--I kept the binaurals on stage, and they got absolutely hammered by the volume. You can hear what we were doing in our sets, which is good, but everything's very compressed and clipped. At least it's not the mic pre clipping, which would be even worse than the mic clipping we did get.

After the set, Rob mentioned that we pretty much weren't going to get paid for the evening--we'd made some money, but after paying the sound guy his $60, there was about $3 left. And quite rightfully it was Rob's as he set up the show in the first place.

Template were up next, a rock act from the Tarentum area who mix some covers and originals. They had a heavy grunge/somewhat nu-metal component, and they put in quite a good set--very tight, and an inventive choice of covers. (I particularly dug their treatment of "Sunshine of Your Love"--very unexpected choice.) Nice guys, too. There was one original during which the two guitarists were playing in unison, which I think could use some arranging work--very crunchy as is, but I think the impact could be ratcheted up if the two guitarists played counterpoint. Still, a fun set.

So that's another successful set with the Stem Cell Liberation Front--even with the limited audience--and we're really looking forward to the next one (ideally next time we'll bring in some more people). Still, it's all quite thrilling and inspirational, and you should be a part of this lovely cultural blooming.

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